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Joyce Yusi Zhou. Art and Science in the Empress Dowager’s Palace: An Investigation of the Ningshou Gong Display Record from the Kangxi Reign

Compiled during the 33rd year (1694) of the Kangxi emperor’s reign (1662–1722), the Qing dynasty (1644–1911) Records of Decoration and Display (Chen she dang) is a set of inventories that document the furnishings in China’s imperial palaces. Organized by palace complex and year, the records detail the kinds of objects on display in the Forbidden City and the temporary imperial residences in Beijing and beyond. The earliest entry in this collection of documents, dating to 1694, enumerates the objects in the Palace of Tranquil Longevity (Ningshou gong) and a chamber to the south of the Gate of Solar Essence (Rijing men) in the Forbidden City (Gugong bowuyuan, 2013, vol. 17).

This article focuses on the building labelled ‘Ningshou gong’ in the display record, which refers to an extant structure located behind the Hall of Imperial Supremacy (Huangji dian) in the Forbidden City’s northeast corner. Built in the Ming dynasty (1368–1644), the Palace of Tranquil Longevity was renovated in the 28th year of the Kangxi reign (1690) and reinstated as the personal residence of Empress Dowager Xiaohuizhang (1641–1718; Fig. 1), the official imperial consort of Kangxi’s father, the Shunzhi emperor (r. 1644–61) (Xu, 2013, p. 106).

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November/December 2020
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